Connor Kelly comes up clutch in OT win

By Sarah Griffin | Jul 25, 2022

Pushed by the hometown kid Connor Kelly’s game-tying goal and then OT winner, “you just can’t make up a better script,” Waterdogs head coach Andy Copelan said of his team’s gutsy 11-10 overtime victory against the Chrome on Sunday evening. 

It was a battle till the very end for the Waterdogs as two of their key O-guys in sharp-shooter Ryan Brown and offensive catalyst from X Michael Sowers went down early on prior to the second half. 

Teams speak so much of the next man up mentality, and if one thing’s evident in this win for the Waterdogs, it’s that they’ve mastered such a mindset. 

In Sowers and Brown’s absence, Kelly made the move from midfield to attack to provide support to Kieran McArdle, an offensive leader for this team week in and week out. SSDM Jake Higgins stepped up to play some offense, as we saw both him and Matt Whitcher get some shots off and set some picks for McArdle. 

Even their defense made necessary adjustments to accommodate to the offensive losses, with Eli Gobrecht playing some LSM for the first time, and Chris Sabia moving down low on defense to match up with Dylan Molloy.

“We moved some pieces around and everyone just really stepped up,” said Copelan. “I don’t know that it was the prettiest of wins, but in terms of answering what this team’s DNA is all about, I think it’s become apparent that they’re certainly made of the right stuff.” 

Goaltender Dillon Ward praised his team’s play in the second half on both ends of the field, as he said the major point of emphasis in the second half for the Dogs was simply to do what’s asked of you. 

“If you have to take a shift on offense, you take a shift on offense. If you have to go offense to defense back to offense, you do it. You do what’s asked of you to win and find a way,” Ward remarked. “I don’t want to say this win was a turning point [for our team], but rather a defining point of what we’re going to be as a team moving forward - gutsy, hardworking, no bullsh*t,  not making excuses kind of team.” 

Copelan compared this game to the Waterdogs’ first meeting with the Whipsnakes earlier this season. Down two key players again, they were able to push until the very end against another tough team, even with the odds stacked against them. While they fell in overtime to the Whips in Week 2, thanks to Kelly, they were able to close this one out this time around.

“I grew up playing on that field so I think I got a little bit of a lucky bounce,” said Kelly of his OT winner. “I found a hole, took a shot, rebounded, and just tried to fire something at the net. [Sean] Sconone was playing well tonight, so I had to get something by him at least once.”

Certainly, the Chrome did not make it easy for the already worn-down Waterdogs, as both teams battled fatigue in the summer heat. 

We saw yet another impressive performance from rookie attackman Brendan Nitchtern, who recorded a casual seven point night with three goals and four assists. 

In the cage, Sconone kept his team in it to the very last second. He made fifteen saves for a 60% save percentage, as the Waterdogs outshot the Chrome with 27 shots on net compared to Chrome’s 21. 

Chrome head coach Tim Soudan lauded his goaltender for his gutsy performance. 

“He’s got the quickest hands in the game in my opinion, and he’s a big body. He gets hit by a lot of shots, but he also positions himself well, and he’s a great communicator - he directs traffic well. I’m really happy he’s our guy.”

Ultimately, Soudan felt it was little dumb mistakes in the margins they made that cost them the game. 

“It was bad execution and decisions over the course of 48 minutes that buried us,” he said. “We knew they were down a couple guys and we were trying to press and press, but sometimes when you press, you make mistakes, and we just made too many of them.”

He remarked that prior to the All-Star break, they discussed as a team the importance of learning from mistakes, and this loss was definitely one of those learning experiences.

“I think we’re a team that’s in a good position to be in the postseason and do well, but the big thing is we support each other when we make mistakes, and we learn from it going forward.”

The Chrome look to build from this loss and bounce back next week in Dallas as they take on the Whipsnakes Saturday night, while the Waterdogs will meet up with the Cannons for the second time since Week 1 as they seek revenge on Sunday afternoon.